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UPDATE: Houston School Board Apologizes for Contentious Meeting, Behavior Over Last Ten Months

The nine members of the Houston school board refused to answer any questions from reporters at the press conference Monday and didn’t explain why they decided to backtrack on changing leadership.

community on behalf of the Houston school board, for how they've behaved over the last 10 months.
Trustee Diana Dávila issued an apology to the community on behalf of the Houston school board, for how they’ve behaved over the last 10 months.

The Houston school board has apologized to students, teachers and parents for a contentious meeting last meeting that saw the board split along racial lines, an abrupt change in leadership and widespread criticism for dysfunctional governance.

All nine members of the board for the Houston Independent School District stood together, as Trustee Diana Dávila issued the formal apology. She’s the one who made the motion last week to bring back former Houston superintendent Abelardo Saavedra as an interim leader, replacing Grenita Lathan.

“Our actions have not modeled the behavior that we hope to instill in our children that we serve,” Dávila said.

The board announced at the Monday afternoon press conference that they are scrapping that plan to shuffle leadership. Lathan is expected to return as interim superintendent, after an official vote at a special meeting Thursday.

“The most important line of action right now is getting to work for the benefit of our school communities, our parents and, most importantly, our students,” Lathan said, quoting Maya Angelou on getting to work. “Thank you, thank you to the Board of Education for reaffirming your confidence in my abilities to lead this district.”

Until last Thursday, Lathan had served as interim superintendent since March, when the previous leader, Richard Carranza, abruptly resigned and left for a job in New York City in March. Under Lathan’s tenure, the state’s largest school district, with over 200,000 students, improved several chronically struggling schools and managed to avoid tough state sanctions.

The school board plans to meet Thursday to reinstate Lathan and consider other ways to improve how they govern and treat each other. Those include:

  • an executive coach for the board;
  • an executive coach for the acting superintendent;
  • creating an official end date for the ongoing search for a permanent superintendent and;
  • requesting a change in conservator from the Texas Education Agency.

“We cannot change the past but must learn from it,” said Trustee Jolanda Jones. “That is a value we foster in our students and must also foster in ourselves. We will work to behave as adults and treat each other with respect.”

The board also said they plan to create new guidelines for transparency and ethics.

Still, the nine members of the Houston school board refused to answer any questions from reporters at the press conference and didn’t explain why they decided to backtrack on changing leadership.

UPDATE:

Several elected officials have defended the Houston school board. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, spoke to reporters after trustees apologized and then refused to answer questions.

I think an apology and saying I’m sorry is one of the greatest lessons any child or any person can learn. Let’s give them a chance. They’re going to have another board meeting on Thursday. That will be a board meeting in regular order, if you will,” Jackson Lee said.

Other lawmakers, however, have called for major changes. State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, said in a statement that it’s time for the Texas Education Commissioner to appoint a board of governors to manage the state’s largest school district.

Bettencourt, who chairs a key education committee in the Texas Legislature, said that he was already planning to file a bill to reform how the district is governed.

“These superintendents are not the problem, the HISD Board of Trustees is!” Bettencourt said in a statement.

 

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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